A directional antenna or beam antenna is an antenna which radiates or receives greater power in specific directions allowing increased performance and reduced interference from unwanted sources. Directional antennas provide increased performance over dipole antennas—or omnidirectional antennas in general—when greater concentration of radiation in a certain direction is desired.
In electronic communications, especially in telecommunications, an interference is that which modifies a signal in a disruptive manner, as it travels along a channel between its source and receiver. The term is often used to refer to the addition of unwanted signals to a useful signal. Common examples are:
In radio and telecommunications a dipole antenna or doublet is the simplest and most widely used class of antenna. The dipole is any one of a class of antennas producing a radiation pattern approximating that of an elementary electric dipole with a radiating structure supporting a line current so energized that the current has only one node at each end. A dipole antenna commonly consists of two identical conductive elements such as metal wires or rods. The driving current from the transmitter is applied, or for receiving antennas the output signal to the receiver is taken, between the two halves of the antenna. Each side of the feedline to the transmitter or receiver is connected to one of the conductors. This contrasts with a monopole antenna, which consists of a single rod or conductor with one side of the feedline connected to it, and the other side connected to some type of ground. A common example of a dipole is the "rabbit ears" television antenna found on broadcast television sets.
In radio communication, an omnidirectional antenna is a class of antenna which radiates equal radio power in all directions perpendicular to an axis, with power varying with angle to the axis, declining to zero on the axis. When graphed in three dimensions (see graph) this radiation pattern is often described as doughnut-shaped. Note that this is different from an isotropic antenna, which radiates equal power in all directions, having a spherical radiation pattern. Omnidirectional antennas oriented vertically are widely used for nondirectional antennas on the surface of the Earth because they radiate equally in all horizontal directions, while the power radiated drops off with elevation angle so little radio energy is aimed into the sky or down toward the earth and wasted. Omnidirectional antennas are widely used for radio broadcasting antennas, and in mobile devices that use radio such as cell phones, FM radios, walkie-talkies, wireless computer networks, cordless phones, GPS, as well as for base stations that communicate with mobile radios, such as police and taxi dispatchers and aircraft communications.
A high-gain antenna (HGA) is a directional antenna with a focused, narrow radiowave beam width, permitting more precise targeting of the radio signals. Most commonly referred to during space missions, these antennas are also in use all over Earth, most successfully in flat, open areas where there are no mountains to disrupt radiowaves. By contrast, a low-gain antenna (LGA) is an omnidirectional antenna with a broad radiowave beam width, that allows the signal to propagate reasonably well even in mountainous regions and is thus more reliable regardless of terrain. Low-gain antennas are often used in spacecraft as a backup to the high-gain antenna, which transmits a much narrower beam and is therefore susceptible to loss of signal.
Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite. Earth orbits around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.
A spacecraft is a vehicle or machine designed to fly in outer space. A type of artificial satellite, spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, Earth observation, meteorology, navigation, space colonization, planetary exploration, and transportation of humans and cargo. All spacecraft except single-stage-to-orbit vehicles cannot get into space on their own, and require a launch vehicle.
All practical antennas are at least somewhat directional, although usually only the direction in the plane parallel to the earth is considered, and practical antennas can easily be omnidirectional in one plane. The most common types are the Yagi antenna, the log-periodic antenna, and the corner reflector antenna, which are frequently combined and commercially sold as residential TV antennas. Cellular repeaters often make use of external directional antennas to give a far greater signal than can be obtained on a standard cell phone. Satellite Television receivers usually use parabolic antennas. For long and medium wavelength frequencies, tower arrays are used in most cases as directional antennas.
A log-periodic antenna (LP), also known as a log-periodic array or log-periodic aerial, is a multi-element, directional antenna designed to operate over a wide band of frequencies. It was invented by Dwight Isbell and Raymond DuHamel at the University of Illinois in 1958.
A corner reflector antenna is a type of directional antenna used at VHF and UHF frequencies. It was invented by John D. Kraus in 1938. It consists of a dipole driven element mounted in front of two flat rectangular reflecting screens joined at an angle, usually 90°. Corner reflectors have moderate gain of 10-15 dB, high front-to-back ratio of 20-30 dB, and wide bandwidth.
A cellular repeater is a type of bi-directional amplifier used to improve cell phone reception. A cellular repeater system commonly consists of a donor antenna that receives and transmits signal from nearby cell towers, coaxial cables, a signal amplifier, and an indoor rebroadcast antenna.
When transmitting, a high-gain antenna allows more of the transmitted power to be sent in the direction of the receiver, increasing the received signal strength. When receiving, a high gain antenna captures more of the signal, again increasing signal strength. Due to reciprocity, these two effects are equal—an antenna that makes a transmitted signal 100 times stronger (compared to an isotropic radiator) will also capture 100 times as much energy as the isotropic antenna when used as a receiving antenna. As a consequence of their directivity, directional antennas also send less (and receive less) signal from directions other than the main beam. This property may be used to reduce interference.
In classical electromagnetism, reciprocity refers to a variety of related theorems involving the interchange of time-harmonic electric current densities (sources) and the resulting electromagnetic fields in Maxwell's equations for time-invariant linear media under certain constraints. Reciprocity is closely related to the concept of Hermitian operators from linear algebra, applied to electromagnetism.
An isotropic radiator is a theoretical point source of electromagnetic or sound waves which radiates the same intensity of radiation in all directions. It has no preferred direction of radiation. It radiates uniformly in all directions over a sphere centred on the source. Isotropic radiators are used as reference radiators with which other sources are compared, for example in determining the gain of antennas. A coherent isotropic radiator of electromagnetic waves is theoretically impossible, but incoherent radiators can be built. An isotropic sound radiator is possible because sound is a longitudinal wave.
There are many ways to make a high-gain antenna; the most common are parabolic antennas, helical antennas, yagi antennas, and phased arrays of smaller antennas of any kind. Horn antennas can also be constructed with high gain, but are less commonly seen. Still other configurations are possible—the Arecibo Observatory uses a combination of a line feed with an enormous spherical reflector (as opposed to a more usual parabolic reflector), to achieve extremely high gains at specific frequencies.
A parabolic antenna is an antenna that uses a parabolic reflector, a curved surface with the cross-sectional shape of a parabola, to direct the radio waves. The most common form is shaped like a dish and is popularly called a dish antenna or parabolic dish. The main advantage of a parabolic antenna is that it has high directivity. It functions similarly to a searchlight or flashlight reflector to direct the radio waves in a narrow beam, or receive radio waves from one particular direction only. Parabolic antennas have some of the highest gains, meaning that they can produce the narrowest beamwidths, of any antenna type. In order to achieve narrow beamwidths, the parabolic reflector must be much larger than the wavelength of the radio waves used, so parabolic antennas are used in the high frequency part of the radio spectrum, at UHF and microwave (SHF) frequencies, at which the wavelengths are small enough that conveniently-sized reflectors can be used.
A helical antenna is an antenna consisting of one or more conducting wires wound in the form of a helix. In most cases, directional helical antennas are mounted over a ground plane, while omnidirectional designs may not be. The feed line is connected between the bottom of the helix and the ground plane. Helical antennas can operate in one of two principal modes — normal mode or axial mode.
In antenna theory, a phased array usually means an electronically scanned array, a computer-controlled array of antennas which creates a beam of radio waves that can be electronically steered to point in different directions without moving the antennas. In an array antenna, the radio frequency current from the transmitter is fed to the individual antennas with the correct phase relationship so that the radio waves from the separate antennas add together to increase the radiation in a desired direction, while cancelling to suppress radiation in undesired directions. In a phased array, the power from the transmitter is fed to the antennas through devices called phase shifters, controlled by a computer system, which can alter the phase electronically, thus steering the beam of radio waves to a different direction. Since the array must consist of many small antennas to achieve high gain, phased arrays are mainly practical at the high frequency end of the radio spectrum, in the UHF and microwave bands, in which the antenna elements are conveniently small.
Antenna gain is often quoted with respect to a hypothetical antenna that radiates equally in all directions, an isotropic radiator. This gain, when measured in decibels, is called dBi. Conservation of energy dictates that high gain antennas must have narrow beams. For example, if a high gain antenna makes a 1 watt transmitter look like a 100 watt transmitter, then the beam can cover at most 1⁄100 of the sky (otherwise the total amount of energy radiated in all directions would sum to more than the transmitter power, which is not possible). In turn this implies that high-gain antennas must be physically large, since according to the diffraction limit, the narrower the beam desired, the larger the antenna must be (measured in wavelengths).
In electromagnetics, an antenna's power gain or simply gain is a key performance number which combines the antenna's directivity and electrical efficiency. In a transmitting antenna, the gain describes how well the antenna converts input power into radio waves headed in a specified direction. In a receiving antenna, the gain describes how well the antenna converts radio waves arriving from a specified direction into electrical power. When no direction is specified, "gain" is understood to refer to the peak value of the gain, the gain in the direction of the antenna's main lobe. A plot of the gain as a function of direction is called the gain pattern or radiation pattern.
The decibel is a unit of measurement used to express the ratio of one value of a power or field quantity to another on a logarithmic scale, the logarithmic quantity being called the power level or field level, respectively. It can be used to express a change in value or an absolute value. In the latter case, it expresses the ratio of a value to a fixed reference value; when used in this way, a suffix that indicates the reference value is often appended to the decibel symbol. For example, if the reference value is 1 volt, then the suffix is "V", and if the reference value is one milliwatt, then the suffix is "m".
Antenna gain can also be measured in dBd, which is gain in Decibels compared to the maximum intensity direction of a half wave dipole. In the case of Yagi type aerials this more or less equates to the gain one would expect from the aerial under test minus all its directors and reflector. It is important not to confuse dBi and dBd; the two differ by 2.15 dB, with the dBi figure being higher, since a dipole has 2.15 db of gain with respect to an isotropic antenna.
Gain is also dependent on the number of elements and the tuning of those elements. Antennas can be tuned to be resonant over a wider spread of frequencies but, all other things being equal, this will mean the gain of the aerial is lower than one tuned for a single frequency or a group of frequencies. For example, in the case of wideband TV antennas the fall off in gain is particularly large at the bottom of the TV transmitting band. In the UK this bottom third of the TV band is known as group A; see gain graph comparing grouped aerials to a wideband aerial of the same size/model.
Other factors may also affect gain such as aperture (the area the antenna collects signal from, almost entirely related to the size of the antenna but for small antennas can be increased by adding a ferrite rod), and efficiency (again, affected by size, but also resistivity of the materials used and impedance matching). These factors are easy to improve without adjusting other features of the antennas or coincidentally improved by the same factors that increase directivity, and so are typically not emphasized.
High gain antennas are typically the largest component of deep space probes, and the highest gain radio antennas are physically enormous structures, such as the Arecibo Observatory. The Deep Space Network uses 35 m dishes at about 1 cm wavelengths. This combination gives the antenna gain of about 100,000,000 (or 80 dB, as normally measured), making the transmitter appear about 100 million times stronger, and a receiver about 100 million times more sensitive, provided the target is within the beam. This beam can cover at most one hundred millionth (10−8) of the sky, so very accurate pointing is required.
Use of high gain and Millimeter-wave communication in WPAN gaining increases the probability of concurrent scheduling of non‐interfering transmissions in a localized area, which results in an immense increase in network throughput. However, the optimum scheduling of concurrent transmission is an NP-Hard problem.
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In telecommunications and radar, a reflective array antenna is a class of directive antennas in which multiple driven elements are mounted in front of a flat surface designed to reflect the radio waves in a desired direction. They are a type of array antenna. They are often used in the VHF and UHF frequency bands. VHF examples are generally large and resemble a highway billboard, so they are sometimes called billboard antennas, or in Britain hoarding antennas. Other names are bedspring array and bowtie array depending on the type of elements making up the antenna. The curtain array is a larger version used by shortwave radio broadcasting stations.
In radio engineering, an antenna is the interface between radio waves propagating through space and electric currents moving in metal conductors, used with a transmitter or receiver. In transmission, a radio transmitter supplies an electric current to the antenna's terminals, and the antenna radiates the energy from the current as electromagnetic waves. In reception, an antenna intercepts some of the power of a radio wave in order to produce an electric current at its terminals, that is applied to a receiver to be amplified. Antennas are essential components of all radio equipment.
Effective radiated power (ERP), synonymous with equivalent radiated power, is an IEEE standardized definition of directional radio frequency (RF) power, such as that emitted by a radio transmitter. It is the total power in watts that would have to be radiated by a half-wave dipole antenna to give the same radiation intensity as the actual source at a distant receiver located in the direction of the antenna's strongest beam. ERP measures the combination of the power emitted by the transmitter and the ability of the antenna to direct that power in a given direction. It is equal to the input power to the antenna multiplied by the gain of the antenna. It is used in electronics and telecommunications, particularly in broadcasting to quantify the apparent power of a broadcasting station experienced by listeners in its reception area.
A Yagi–Uda antenna, commonly known as a Yagi antenna, is a directional antenna consisting of multiple parallel elements in a line, usually half-wave dipoles made of metal rods. Yagi–Uda antennas consist of a single driven element connected to the transmitter or receiver with a transmission line, and additional "parasitic elements" which are not connected to the transmitter or receiver: a so-called reflector and one or more directors. It was invented in 1926 by Shintaro Uda of Tohoku Imperial University, Japan, and Hidetsugu Yagi.
Direction finding (DF), or radio direction finding (RDF), is the measurement of the direction from which a received signal was transmitted. This can refer to radio or other forms of wireless communication, including radar signals detection and monitoring (ELINT/ESM). By combining the direction information from two or more suitably spaced receivers, the source of a transmission may be located via triangulation. Radio direction finding is used in the navigation of ships and aircraft, to locate emergency transmitters for search and rescue, for tracking wildlife, and to locate illegal or interfering transmitters. RDF was important in combating German threats during both the World War II Battle of Britain and the long running Battle of the Atlantic. In the former, the Air Ministry also used RDF to locate its own fighter groups and vector them to detected German raids.
In a radio antenna, a passive radiator or parasitic element is a conductive element, typically a metal rod, which is not electrically connected to anything else. Multielement antennas such as the Yagi-Uda antenna typically consist of a "driven element" which is connected to the radio receiver or transmitter through a feed line, and parasitic elements, which are not. The purpose of the parasitic elements is to modify the radiation pattern of the radio waves emitted by the driven element, directing them in a beam in one direction, increasing the antenna's directivity (gain). A parasitic element does this by acting as a passive resonator, something like a guitar's sound box, absorbing the radio waves from the nearby driven element and re-radiating them again with a different phase. The waves from the different antenna elements interfere, strengthening the antenna's radiation in the desired direction, and cancelling out the waves in undesired directions.
The Mainflingen mediumwave transmitter is a mediumwave transmission facility south of the A3 motorway near Mainflingen, Hesse, Germany. Mainflingen was the first mediumwave transmitter for the radio station Deutschlandfunk. It went into service in 1962 with a transmission power of 50 kW, on a frequency of 1538 kHz, at the upper end of the mediumwave band. This frequency has a bad groundwave propagation and therefore a low range at daytime, but an excellent skywave propagation with a long range at night.
In a multielement antenna array, the driven element or active element is the element in the antenna which is electrically connected to the receiver or transmitter. In a transmitting antenna it is driven or excited by the RF current from the transmitter, and is the source of the radio waves. In a receiving antenna it collects the incoming radio waves for reception, and converts them to tiny oscillating electric currents, which are applied to the receiver. Multielement antennas like the Yagi typically consist of a driven element, connected to the receiver or transmitter through a feed line, and a number of other elements which are not driven, called parasitic elements. The driven element is often a dipole. The parasitic elements act as resonators and couple electromagnetically with the driven element, and serve to modify the radiation pattern of the antenna, directing the radio waves in one direction, increasing the gain of the antenna.
The air interface, or access mode, is the communication link between the two stations in mobile or wireless communication. The air interface involves both the physical and data link layers of the OSI model for a connection.
An antenna reflector is a device that reflects electromagnetic waves. Antenna reflectors can exist as a standalone device for redirecting radio frequency (RF) energy, or can be integrated as part of an antenna assembly.
A television antenna, or TV aerial, is an antenna specifically designed for the reception of over-the-air broadcast television signals, which are transmitted at frequencies from about 47 to 250 MHz in the VHF band, and 470 to 960 MHz in the UHF band in different countries. Television antennas are manufactured in two different types: "indoor" antennas, to be located on top of or next to the television set, and "outdoor" antennas, mounted on a mast on top of the owner's house. They can also be mounted in a loft or attic, where the dry conditions and increased elevation are advantageous for reception and antenna longevity. Outdoor antennas are more expensive and difficult to install, but are necessary for adequate reception in fringe areas far from television stations. The most common types of indoor antennas are the dipole and loop antennas, and for outdoor antennas the yagi, log periodic, and for UHF channels the multi-bay reflective array antenna.
In telecommunications and electronics, an antenna feed refers to several slightly different parts of an antenna system:
A turnstile antenna, or crossed-dipole antenna, is a radio antenna consisting of a set of two identical dipole antennas mounted at right angles to each other and fed in phase quadrature; the two currents applied to the dipoles are 90° out of phase. The name reflects the notion the antenna looks like a turnstile when mounted horizontally. The antenna can be used in two possible modes. In normal mode the antenna radiates horizontally polarized radio waves perpendicular to its axis. In axial mode the antenna radiates circularly polarized radiation along its axis.
An antenna array is a set of multiple connected antennas which work together as a single antenna, to transmit or receive radio waves. The individual antennas are usually connected to a single receiver or transmitter by feedlines that feed the power to the elements in a specific phase relationship. The radio waves radiated by each individual antenna combine and superpose, adding together to enhance the power radiated in desired directions, and cancelling to reduce the power radiated in other directions. Similarly, when used for receiving, the separate radio frequency currents from the individual antennas combine in the receiver with the correct phase relationship to enhance signals received from the desired directions and cancel signals from undesired directions. More sophisticated array antennas may have multiple transmitter or receiver modules, each connected to a separate antenna element or group of elements.
Curtain arrays are a class of large multielement directional wire radio transmitting antennas, used in the shortwave radio bands. They are a type of reflective array antenna, consisting of multiple wire dipole antennas, suspended in a vertical plane, often in front of a "curtain" reflector made of a flat vertical screen of many long parallel wires. These are suspended by support wires strung between pairs of tall steel towers, up to 300 ft (90 m) high. They are used for long-distance skywave transmission; they transmit a beam of radio waves at a shallow angle into the sky just above the horizon, which is reflected by the ionosphere back to Earth beyond the horizon. Curtain antennas are mostly used by international short wave radio stations to broadcast to large areas at transcontinental distances.
In radio systems, many different antenna types are used with specialized properties for particular applications. Antennas can be classified in various ways. The list below groups together antennas under common operating principles, following the way antennas are classified in many engineering textbooks.